Sometimes it’s colour combinations, sometimes it’s motifs and sometimes it’s just the overall essence of an image that provides a creative spur when searching for inspiration. We all do it and the Victorians’ passion for mining their past is proudly visible in their cultural output.
Building Noah’s Ark, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Victorian
Moses receives the Law, St Edmundsbury, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Victorian
God creates Eve, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Victorian.
The Flight to Egypt, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Victorian.
Susannah and the Elders, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Late medieval either Flemish or French.
Jesse, the Father of King David, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Victorian.
The Last Judgement St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Victorian.
Most of the stained glass windows that decorate St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, are the work of three leading stained glass firms of the nineteenth century. Stained glass by Clayton and Bell, Hardman & Co and C E Kempe fill the cathedral windows with their work inspired by long-gone and unnamed medieval craftsmen. There is, however, one window whose lights are not Victorian, but date from the late medieval period. At first glance maybe they all look the same, but one has a different ‘feel’! (I’ve labelled it).
Mary Tudor was the fifth child of seven born to King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York. Mary Tudor’s first marriage was to King Louis XII of France and she was his third wife.
Mottled and faded print of a copy of an oil painted for King Louis XII. Attributed to Jean Perréal c. 1514
Print of a Victorian copy of an oil of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Original oil possibly by Jan Gossaert c. 1516
These two pictures were displayed near Mary’s tomb. The image on the left is Mary Tudor (c.1514) painted for Louis XII. The original is attributed to Jean Perréal of Paris, Royal Painter at the French Court. The portrait was painted before Mary left England for France. The image on the right is a copy from a portrait of Mary (c.1516) painted with her husband the Duke of Suffolk. The original oil is attributed to Jan Gossaert.
The marriage to the King of France only lasted two years and upon the death of Louis, Mary scandalously married Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, in a secret ceremony in Paris.
The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Attributed to Jan Gossaert. c. 1516 The Woburn version.
The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Attributed to Jan Gossaert. c. 1516 The Lincolnshire version.
It was a secret wedding as the couple had not gained approval from the English King Henry VIII, her brother. For a royal sister to marry without permission was considered treason and both Mary and Charles could have been executed. Fortunately, following a defence of their marriage by senior advisers such as Cardinal Wolsey, the King decided to level a large fine instead. The Duke and Duchess were then formally married in public at Greenwich Hall in London.
Mary Tudor may have been a King’s sister and a King’s wife, but as the Duchess of Suffolk she was buried in the Abbey at Bury St Edmund’s in Suffolk. It is possible she had a stone tomb within the Abbey in the Tudor style, but following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Abbey was spoiled and she was reburied in St Mary’s Parish Church. A space next to the altar, as her royal rank dictates, is marked as her resting place, but without a formal funereal structure.
These plaques hang above the area of Mary’s tomb.
Sacred to the Memory of Mary Tudor, Third Daugther of Henry the 7th King of England, and Queen of France; Who was first married in 1514 to Lewis the 12th King of France, and afterwards in 1517, to Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk. She died in His Life Time in 1533, at the Manor of Westhorp in this County and was interred in the same Year in the Monastery of St Edmund’s Bury, and was removed into this Church, after the Dissolution of the Abbey.
Interestingly, the aristocratic, but not royal Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Earlier this year I went to the exhibition ‘Frayed: Textiles on the Edge’ at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. The aim of the exhibition was to highlight examples of embroidered work that had been created by people at times of mental distress. Perhaps the most eye-catching works were two long embroidered ‘letters’ sewn by Lorina Bulwer.
These two pieces are 12ft and 14ft long by about 14 inches wide. Each ‘letter’ has been worked in coloured wools on pieced cotton grounds using various colours to ensure the text is clear and readable on every different ground.
Lorina (born in Beccles, Suffolk in 1838) made her letters whilst residing in the lunatic wing of Great Yarmouth Workhouse between 1900 and 1910. Many of the words are underlined as she angrily relates her story including writing about her family, neighbours and her troubled life.
When I saw Lorina’s work I remembered Tracy Emin’s provocative textile creations. Maybe the soft pliable quality of embroidered cloth and the frequent prettiness of embroidery magnifies the power of angry text. It was an inspiring exhibition and has led me to work a design for a scarf using text. My words are places in Suffolk and Norfolk surrounded by a few lines of verse from various poems by William Blake. I chose Blake as his words were also the words of an angry outsider.
This is the fine painted alabaster tomb of ‘The Poet Earl’. Erected in 1614 it is the funereal monument for Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey and his wife, Frances, the Countess of Surrey. This monument is one of several Howard tombs at St Michael’s, Framlingham in Suffolk.
The Earl (1517-47) was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and great friend and brother-in-law to Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond. Although, widely acknowledged as the King’s son, Richmond was illegitimate and as such when he died of consumption at just 17 years old he was buried with the Howards at Thetford Priory. The dissolution of the monasteries brought about the closure of Thetford Priory in 1540 and the tombs and their contents were moved to St Michael’s Framlingham.
More interestingly Henry Howard, the Poet Earl, was also friends with another Tudor poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42). Together with Wyatt, the Earl is credited with introducing the sonnet form of poetry into English.
During the reign of Henry VIII the ‘Norfolks’ were in and out of favour with the King and towards the end of his reign both Thomas (father) and Henry (son) ended up in the Tower of London. Following much court intrigue the pair were found guilty of treason and in January 1547 Henry Howard, the Poet Earl, was beheaded at the Tower. His father’s execution date was set for 29 January 1547 but King Henry died the day before. Following the death of Henry VIII the old Duke of Norfolk was not executed, but instead spent the next six years in the Tower. As a Catholic he was finally released on the accession to the throne of Queen Mary. He died a year later aged 80 years old at his Kenninghall residence – a Norfolk Howard that was not executed.
OF THE DEATH OF SIR THOMAS WYATT.
DIVERS thy death do diversely bemoan :
Some, that in presence of thy livelihed
Lurked, whose breasts envy with hate had swoln,
Yield Cæsar’s tears upon Pompeius’ head.
Some, that watched with the murd’rer’s knife,
With eager thirst to drink thy guiltless blood,
Whose practice brake by happy end of life,
With envious tears to hear thy fame so good.
But I, that knew what harbour’d in that head ;
What virtues rare were tempered in that breast ;
Honour the place that such a jewel bred,
And kiss the ground whereas the corpse doth rest ;
With vapour’d eyes : from whence such streams availe,
As Pyramus did on Thisbe’s breast bewail.
Further poems from the Poet Earl can be found at Luminarium.
Every now and then the ordinariness of everyday life falls away and you are left in a very special place. It could be the beauty of an unexpected view, the heady scent of a delicate bloom, but last week for me it was hearing Bach’s ‘Vater unser im Himmelreich’. It was played on the Thamar organ in St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, by one of the world’s most celebrated Bach specialists, Masaaki Suzuki.
Masaaki Suzuki playing Bach at St Michael’s, Framlingham as part of the 67th Aldeburgh Festival 2014. Photo from Aldeburgh Festival.
You can just Mr Suzuki leaving at the end of his recital. And, it also gives you some idea of the size of the Thamar organ.
Sandwiched between some Buxtehude and Bach’s ‘Prelude & Fugue in E minor’ BWV 548, it was a glimpse of the sublime. I know you shouldn’t attempt to unpick such moments, but I have been trying to understand why it was so good.
The 17th-century Thamar Organ.
One of only eight early organs that survived the English Civil War.
The interior of the church is nothing special. However, I think its size coupled with the stone walls and pillars, provides a cavernous-feeling acoustic without being too big for the sound of the restored 17th-century Thamar organ. Secondly, the rich, mellow sound of the organ was powerful without becoming harsh and strident. And, finally, the playing of Masaaki Suzuki imparted a gentle, flowing sentiment that still pulsed with a firm 18th-century rhythm.
Living in East Anglia we are well aware that over a 1000 years ago Scandinavian longboats could be sighted rowing up the marshy waterways to invade our islands.
I grew up in a village called Danbury, and went to the local school in the nearby town of Maldon (Maeldune) on the River Blackwater. “Maeldune” is the Saxon spelling of Maldon and means “a cross on the hill”. At school we learnt about the local area’s Saxon heritage supported by archaeological finds and the ‘Battle of Maldon‘ as recounted in the ‘Anglo Saxon Chronicles’ and the Anglo Saxon poem ‘The Battle of Maldon’. The battle took place in AD991 between the Saxons living around the River Blackwater and the Vikings who raided in their famous longboats.
Last week I went to the British Museums’s Exhibition about the Vikings. Known as a ‘blockbuster’ exhibition with all the accompanying publicity we knew it would be busy even with the ‘timed’ entry (vigorously policed by the staff) – and it was. The first two rooms were dark and overcrowded with tiny pieces mounted in minimal, sparse arrangements. I know one of the agendas pursued by the curators was to dampen down the ‘Vikings as raiders’ legacy and present a more rounded version of Viking culture, but once you’ve seen a couple of oversized brooches they really aren’t that exciting. And, there wasn’t a single example of jewellery to compare with the Anglo-Saxon pieces found at the early 7th-century ship burial at Sutton Hoo. (Incidentally available to see for free in a new gallery display in the main part of the BM.)
Nevertheless, I quickly glanced my way through these rooms until I opened the door into the main new exhibition hall. And, there it was, the boat, Roskilde 6 (archaeologists’ site nomenclature). Firstly, none of the press photos do it justice. The ship’s size (37 metres long) is the longest longboat discovered so far and the metal re-construction is beautiful encouraging you to mentally extend the few original surviving wooden planks of the Roskilde 6.
But most stunning and evocative was the way you could stand at one end and see the whole boat stretching away across the North Sea as the wave filled view gradually changed from dark and menacing into a gentle evening sunset. I was quite transfixed by the arrangement and the clever use of video. It wasn’t like a fairground trick, but a gentle prompt to your historical imagination. All of a sudden I was considerably impressed by the Vikings’ skill and energy for exploration.
Sorry – I did ask – but it was strictly no photography, but here’s the magnificent purse lid from the early 7th century, Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. (Smaller longboat than the Viking one, only 27 metres, but you can see it’s all part of the Northern European cultural continuum.)
Sometimes people have grand ideas that never come to fruition, but luckily those amazing people involved with the opera production of ‘Grimes on the Beach’ for the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival brought us a dramatic and memorable evening. Despite the myriad of difficulties associated with staging an opera outside on a beach, seeing ‘Peter Grimes’ on this specific beach where the fictional action takes place, was mesmerizing.
Our evening was enhanced by arriving in a thick sea mist that came and went during the performance when the weather changed as dusk turned to night.
Britten’s music evoking the sea and the Suffolk coast, a particular coast of shifting shingle, has always been significant for me especially during my time living away from East Anglia. I am a girl of the grey sea and the huge skies, and hearing the waves breaking on the shingle in the quieter passages of this tragic opera was enchanting.
It was a brave decision to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth with this ambitious production and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing to thank and congratulate the soloists, chorus and orchestra members, and all the production team for this spirited and successful work. Bravo.
The sea glimpsed through the staging.
Fishing boat partly submerged in the shingle.
Darkness and the stage is lit.
The hardy souls of the audience during the second interval.
School holidays, of course I remember long, hot days on the dunes and the beach, inventing intense and convoluted adventure dramas with my sister.
We were pirates with oversized shirts and wellington boots, but I remember being more interested in action rather than costumes. We were lucky, we were left to our own devices whilst our father fished and our mother read or sketched. Okay, we didn’t have a sun-drenched, desert island as our backdrop, but the Suffolk coast in the late 1960s was a quiet, relatively empty place open to our imaginations. More recently my daughter has enjoyed being a pirate, but not at the seaside. It has been ‘Pirate Parties’, particularly following the success of ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ films.
So, now, here we are on the Suffolk coast again in the 21st century. It is the school holidays again.
What? Dressing up? Nah – just chill with the phone.
Easter Break in Aldeburgh turned out to be a test of endurance. Here’s a moment caught in the freezing lazy east wind – known locally as ‘lazy’ as it doesn’t go round, but instead goes straight through!